Employers Must Protect Family from Work Hazards, Including Asbestos

Just over a year ago, Larry lost his wife, Adeline, to mesothelioma, 39 days shy of their 50th wedding anniversary. Adeline’s chest pains were the first scare. Then breathing for her became a chore. When she could no longer stand the pain, Larry scheduled a CT scan at the hospital. That’s where a doctor diagnosed her cancer, saying it was inoperable.

Larry had worked in the factory of the Scott Paper Company. When he’d come home evenings, Adeline would shake his clothes before tossing them into the washer. Neither knew asbestos particles went flying into the air with each whip of a trouser leg, shirt, or socks.

Adeline also worked for Scott but in accounts payable. On days when it didn’t rain, they’d walk down to the docks with bagged lunches to enjoy the watery blue view of the Tulalip Bay, an inlet off the Puget Sound. "I thought she was the best-looking girl I'd ever seen," said Larry. They would later have seven children together, including two sets of twins. When the children were grown, Larry and Adeline went dancing Fridays.

One daughter, Kathleen remembers visiting the oncologist for the first time. “He said it was definitely caused by asbestos,” she said. “There was no other way." The Rochons say they believe Scott, since bought by Kimberly-Clark, knew there was potential risk from asbestos and should have helped protect its employees. In March 2005, the Rochons filed a personal injury lawsuit against the paper company.

After the county Superior Court dismissed the asbestos claim case -- ruling Scott wasn't responsible for protecting family members -- the Rochon's attorney appealed. In a precedent-setting ruling, an appeals court ruled an employer does have a duty to protect the employee's family from work-related hazards